You recently purchased your first guinea pigs and now you need to know all about how to set their enclosure up.
There is a lot to learn when you first bring home these furry friends, and bedding is one issue which can have a major impact on their health.
As a new pet parent, you need to know how much bedding to purchase and how thick to layer it in the cage.
Guinea pigs need a 2-3” inch layer of absorbent bedding in their enclosure to be happy and healthy. Shredded paper bedding is best, but aspen bedding is good too. Fleece is a cost-effective and reusable option to make at home to wick away moisture from the bottom of the cage.
To learn more about why guinea pigs need bedding and how much to use, this detailed guide will certainly help!
Why Do Guinea Pigs Need Bedding?
Many owners wonder whether these pets really need bedding in their enclosure.
In short, the answer is absolutely yes.
Guinea pig bedding is a necessity for your furry friends for more reasons than one.
The first reason cavies need bedding is because it helps their sensitive feet.
Most enclosures are made of either wire, metal, or hard plastic.
This is quite hard on the sensitive feet of your cavies.
It also makes it more comfortable for them to sleep in their enclosure.
Think of it this way: would you want to sleep on the hard floor or on a comfy mattress?
Adding bedding to their cage is one way to ensure their overall comfort, whether they are walking around or just taking a quick power nap.
Having bedding in their enclosure is also ideal for their health.
The trick is to choose bedding with a high absorbency.
This helps to soak up urine and keep it confined to one place instead of being allowed to trickle all over the cage.
It also is helpful to absorb fresh water they spill out of their dish accidentally.
Some high-absorbency bedding materials are good for odor control.
Urine has a high ammonia content which is bad for your guinea pig’s respiratory system and can make your house smell bad.
Bedding with odor control such as aspen bedding or paper bedding is the best choice.
Bedding is important for their enrichment and mental health.
Cavies are prey animals which means they are used to being hunted.
They spook easily and often love to hide during the day when things get too busy or stressful.
A thick layer of bedding gives them the opportunity to dig, burrow, and hide within it.
With a nice layer of bedding, they can feel more secure.
Cavies also have a high body temperature, and they enjoy the warmth.
Depending on the type of bedding you put in their cage, they may enjoy the extra warmth it gives them when they burrow deep inside of it.
It helps keep them warm and as cozy as possible.
A guinea pig with adequate bedding is bound to be much happier than those who attempt to go without it.
How Much Bedding Do Guinea Pigs Need?
You finally have your guinea pig cage all set up, and now you need to know how much bedding to purchase from the pet stores.
Ultimately, the amount of bedding you need in your enclosure depends on how many square feet your cage is.
If you have more than one of these social animals, you will need a larger enclosure and will require more bedding to give your piggies an adequate amount of absorption.
As a general rule, you need about 2-3” inches of bedding to keep your guinea pigs happy and healthy.
Anything less than this will not absorb their urine as well and can lead to messes in the cage and all over your furry friends.
You also need a lot of bedding for guinea pigs because they like to dig and burrow.
It needs to be deep enough to give them some room to play around with it.
They will love being able to create small tunnels to run through.
Throughout the week, you need to scoop out their dirty bedding and spot clean the entire enclosure.
Be careful not to take out too much bedding when you do this.
It can leave them a little short the rest of the week until you do a complete overhaul at the end of the week.
Depending on how much bedding you take out, replace some when you finish spot cleaning.
If you are attempting to save money on bedding, line the bottom of the cage with a double layer of newspaper first.
This gives you something to absorb any bathroom business, and then you only need to add about an inch of bedding to the enclosure.
Do not forget to add the bedding on top of the newspaper, as this prevents your guinea pigs from getting the ink all over their feet and bodies when the newspaper gets wet.
What Is The Best Bedding To Use?
Knowing how much bedding to use is just part of creating a healthy environment for your guinea pigs.
You also need to know the best bedding to use for their health and the cleanliness of their environment.
Most owners prefer to use paper bedding such as the Carefresh Small Pet Bedding.
Paper is soft underfoot for your cavies, making it ideal for them to play and burrow in.
It is also an inexpensive option when you have to fill a large amount of square feet in the enclosure.
One of the benefits of using paper is its absorbency.
It easily and readily soaks up all the urine your guinea pig produces with a small amount of odor control.
If you’re worried about odor, check out our article on how to stop a guinea pig cage from smelling.
What Not To Use
Some people like to use just newspaper for their bedding option.
While this is similar to paper bedding, it has one real disadvantage.
When the paper gets wet, the ink tends to run and smear.
The ink will get all over their paws and may not be the best for their health.
While not as common, some use corn cob or hay-based bedding.
These should be avoided as bedding options, as they can easily grow mold.
They are also extremely appealing to your cavies who do not have the most refined sense of taste.
Corn cob and hay look too much like a snack, leading to intestinal blockages.
These blockages are extremely painful and will require veterinary intervention to resolve.
If odor control is super important to you, then check out pine or cedar wood shavings.
These should be avoided at all costs.
They are marketed as great bedding sources for small animals, including guinea pigs.
However, they are actually extremely bad for their health.
The toxins they release wreak havoc on your guinea pig’s respiratory system as well as their liver.
They should never be used to fill the square feet of your enclosure.
These respiratory issues will require veterinary care.
The exception to wood shavings you are able to use is aspen bedding.
This type of bedding does not produce the harmful toxins found in cedar or pine shavings.
Unfortunately, it is also not going to be as absorbent as other types of bedding could be.
Aspen bedding also produces a small amount of dust.
While the reduced quantities of dust are better than those found in cedar and pine, they can still negatively affect the respiratory system of your new pet.
For good alternatives, our article on guinea pig bedding alternatives already in your home has you covered.
Saving Money On Bedding With Fleece
Purchasing fresh bedding for your enclosure can get quite expensive.
Many guinea pig owners prefer to make a one-time investment in fleece to line the bottom of the cage.
Creating a small pad of fleece costs significantly less than purchasing a new 50-liter package of paper bedding each week.
If you have a bigger enclosure with plenty of space for multiple pets, then you’ll be purchasing more than one package each week.
In contrast, purchase a large swath of fleece for just slightly more than the cost of a package of traditional bedding.
You will need fleece and some old towels to help absorb the urine inside of the cage.
These fleece pads are ideal for every cage type, including a wire-bottom cage.
How To Make Your Fleece Bedding
If you want to make your own fleece pads, it is easy to do so with a sewing machine or with a needle and thread by hand.
Cut your fleece and absorbent material to size.
Decide which layer of fleece you want to be on top.
Remember this will be visible in the enclosure so be sure to pick a color or pattern you like.
Lay the top fabric right side up. Next, lay the bottom fabric right side down.
On top, lay your inner absorbent material.
Stitch all of the layers together with about a half-inch seam.
While sewing, make sure you leave one side unstitched.
This will allow you to turn the pads inside out so your fleece pieces are on the top and bottom while the absorbent layer in the middle is on the inside.
Now, you are able to reuse your fleece pads instead of throwing them away each time you need to clean the cage.
Spot clean them and sweep them off on a daily basis to keep them as clean as possible.
However, you only need to take them out and clean or replace them every four to seven days.
Most people keep multiple sets of fleece pads on hand so they can save up and run a larger load of laundry at one time.
It involves a bit of an investment upfront, particularly if you have a very large enclosure.
This bedding option is still cheaper and easier to use in the long run though.
Keep in mind there are some downsides to using fleece as your bedding for guinea pigs.
The main disadvantage is it does not offer much in the way of odor control.
If smelling your cage is not something you want to do, then a fleece bedding system might not be the right fit for you.
It also takes quite a bit of time to wash and dry a set of fleece pads.
You will still need a set of pads in the cage during these periods of time while you are cleaning.
Alternatively, put your cavies in outdoor hutches to play while you work on cleaning their bedding.
Be sure to evaluate how much time you want to invest in cleaning your cage each week and if you are able to tolerate the smell before making fleece pads.
How Often Should You Change Bedding In Guinea Pig Cages?
A new pet parent might wonder how often it is really necessary to change out the bedding.
Pet shops may not offer much guidance on how to maintain your enclosure for the health of your pet.
Most are surprised to learn they should be cleaning the bedding in the enclosure at least once a day.
All you have to do is spot check it and scoop out any soiled bedding.
After you are finished, you need to sprinkle in some new bedding to keep it thick and full.
Of course, if your cavies have not soiled much, you don’t need to add but a handful of fresh bedding into the cage.
If you are using fleece pads for your bedding, you need to sweep them off at least once a day or every other day.
Fortunately, you do not need to replace all of their bedding but once a week.
This is the time when you need to wipe down their cage and freshen things up for them.
If you are not using fleece pads, you will be going through a lot of bedding each week.
Be sure to stock up when you head out to the pet store so you always have some fresh bedding on hand.